Students enjoying their freshly made tortillas

By @SGroshell

I was first inspired to cook with my students in Vietnam when we read a story called The First Tortilla, by Rudolfo Anaya. On the third page or so, a student raised her hand and asked, “What’s a tortilla?”

No one else in the class knew either.

I quickly projected a picture of a google search on tortillas and began an adamant description of the food, but soon realized that wasn’t going to be enough. It was time to break out the flour.

What engages students more than food? Making it.

Instead of buying tortillas for my students to try, I thought we should be like Jade in the book and make them ourselves. Click here for the recipe I used.

The potential for connecting cooking to what students are learning in class is huge, here are the connections I made aside from obvious connections to the book.

  • Procedural writing
  • Mathematical measurements
  • Problem solving skills

Procedural Writing

Recipes open the doorway to learning the importance of each element of procedural writing. Here are the reasons my students came up with for why we can’t forget these steps.

  1. Title – How will we know what we are making?
  2. Materials or Ingredients – How will we know what to buy/bring?
  3. Steps – How will we know what to do?
  4. Conclusion – What special tips do I need to know? How do I know the tortillas are cooked?

Mathematical Measurements

This could be done in a few ways, depending on what the students were learning. We hadn’t started learning about time yet, so we focused on measurement. I decided to measure the flour by its mass (in grams) and the butter and water by its volume (mL). I had to convert my American recipe from measuring with cups, but it still turned out great!

Problem Solving

I knew my students were fantastic, but I didn’t anticipate the extent to which they would help each other when working on an activity that was so exciting. As some students measured the ingredients, others would be carefully watching to make sure it was just perfect and were constantly praising each others’ work. When they ran into problems (such as “I can’t roll out the dough because it is so sticky, what can I do?”), students were also able to find solutions together.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, turning my classroom into a kitchen turned out to be well worth the efforts. Students were able to gain important insight into the book they were reading as well as work on their writing, math and problem solving abilities. I am looking forward to cooking new recipes with my new class this year!

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